Posted on December 4, 2020
Earlier this season I wrote about how Max Borghi is the best running back in the Pac-12. While I technically was not wrong (I still stand by him being the best), he has not been able to show everybody else why he is the best because of an injury that has kept him out all season.
The loss of Borghi was tough for a WSU team that needed all the talent it could get to surround true freshman quarterback Jayden de Laura. But as the saying goes, when one door closes another door opens.
The door that opened is named Deon McIntosh.
The redshirt senior running back has perfectly embodied the next man up mentality and has become the Cougar’s breakout player in 2020.
For coaches and teammates, McIntosh’s breakout has not been a surprise. Senior offensive lineman Liam Ryan said that people have been ‘sleeping’ on McIntosh. Head coach Nick Rolovich said the running back has been impressive and worked hard all offseason.
McIntosh also showed signs of a breakout at this level previously. He started his collegiate career at Notre Dame University, one of the best football programs in the country.
When he was a member of the Fighting Irish in 2017, McIntosh rushed for 368 yards and five touchdowns as a redshirt freshman. He averaged over five yards per carry, and his best game came against North Carolina when he rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries.
McIntosh came to Pullman after spending a year playing at East Mississippi Junior College, and was able to show his talent despite being behind one of the best running backs in the conference in Borghi.
The breakout for McIntosh began against Oregon State in 2019, when he racked up 93 yards on six catches and scored a touchdown. It was his best game of the season, and showed what he was capable of when he got more touches.
In a poetic fashion, McIntosh fully broke out in 2020 against that same Beaver team.
Fans were disappointed when Borghi was not able to play, but soon, they were all aboard the McIntosh bandwagon after he had the best rushing performance for a Cougar since 2007, running for 147 yards and a touchdown with an average of 8.2 yards per carry.
McIntosh showed off an impressive array of power and balance that allowed him to fully establish the run part of the run and shoot.
He followed up that performance with another good showing, this time against a better defense.
In the Cougar’s second game of the season, McIntosh ran for 92 yards and another score against Oregon. He only managed a 5.8 yards per carry average, which is only disappointing because he shredded Oregon State so badly.
Most Cougar football fans knew that WSU would have one of the best running backs this season. They knew Rolovich wanted to run the ball more, and were excited about what that would hold for this offense.
What fans and the media didn’t know was that the running back would be wearing number three instead of number 21.
McIntosh is sixth in the Pac-12 with 239 rushing yards. The catch is that each running back ahead of him has played at least three games, most have played four games. McIntosh and the Cougars have payed just two games.
If Mcintosh kept up the same pace he had for the first two games, he would already be up to 478 rushing yards, good for third in the conference.
McIntosh is producing at the same level as the top backs in the conference, such as Jermar Jefferson, CJ Verdell, and Demetric Felton. The biggest reason why McIntosh has vaulted himself into the category is his efficiency as a runner.
Of the seven running backs with more carries than McIntosh, he is averaging fewer yards per carry than only one of them. His mark of seven yards per carry is barely behind Jefferson’s own mark of 7.4 yards per carry.
Statistically speaking, McIntosh is just 0.4 yards per carry worse than the guy who is running away with the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year award right now.
Will McIntosh be able to keep up this level of production?
Maybe. He clearly has the talent to remain one of the best running backs in the conference.
If Borghi is able to come back this season, McIntosh will likely see a dip in opportunity, but he has played well enough to ensure that he will see the field.
Instead of thinking about who is going to take those carries, we should instead focus on the positives of that situation.
When Borghi is back and fully healthy, WSU will have two of the Top 10 running backs in the Pac-12, maybe even top-six.
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